Hop to it!

Apologies for lack of content on here of late, sometimes real (as in paid) work gets the better of me. One of the things I have been working on while I haven’t been blogging is an article on Cornwall’s real ale which you’ll be able to read in Cornwall Today magazine early in 2011. I’ll save talk of Cornwall’s beer till then and I’ll let you know when the mag is out.

In the real world though I have been doing my best to try a few new ales. I had a delicious vanilla flavoured beer in Hayes the other week, Tom Wood’s Vanilla Orchid. It was apparently brewed especially for the Wetherspoon real ale festival and is described on www.ratebeer.com as a “mid-coloured beer with a strong vanilla aroma and smooth character, while the hops used balance the sweetness of the vanilla, leaving a rich, woody, creamy finish.”

I must confess that I have a way to go on the beer tasting front, in that I lack the terminology and knowledge of the flavours I’m encountering in the manner of ‘I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like’. Having said that, Vanilla Orchid was a deliciously sweet beer that reminded me a little of St Austell’s Clouded Yellow but where CY is an almost Continental-style wheat beer, Vanilla Orchid was more traditional English pint with a twist. My brother thought it foul though and pulled gargoyle-like faces akin to the expression a child pulls when it discovers just how disgusting ear wax tastes.

In the same week I was fortunate enough to go to an Ember Inns pub just as their NovEmber ale festival was kicking off. They had 12 ales on offer, but because I was driving I could only try one. I opted for something called Project Green, which the barwoman told me had been brewed with green hops, some of which had been picked by one of the pub’s managers. It was a tasty pint, quite sweet and fresh as I recall but not especially memorable (unlike the Vanilla Orchid!).

The day after, I randomly got a call from the Ember Inns press office. A polite young woman said she wanted to tell me about a new beer, so I pipped her to the post and said, “Project Green: the one made with green hops picked by pub managers – ‘had a pint last night. It was very nice.”

The flabbergasted woman quickly recovered and offered to send me some info about the beer. Here’s what I found out: In the UK hops are traditionally picked in late August and early September and then dried for use throughout the year. But if you’re quick you can brew with fresh picked, or green, hops for a rather different tasting beer. Just to emphasise the ‘quick’ part of the above, the hops in question went from the vine and into the brewer’s tank within 24 hours. Apparently this makes green hopping the Jack Bauer of the beer world! (I didn’t watch it either, but it’s not a bad reference to encourage new ale drinkers, is it?).

Ember Inns staff picking hops for their Project Green ale.

Although Ember Inns is apparently the first UK pub chain to brew a green hop ale, Project Green isn’t the country’s first green hop ale. Morrison’s supermarket, offered a bottled green hop beer brewed by Titanic brewery during the summer and in Kent, Gadds’ Brewery in Ramsgate brewed one which then became the official ale for the Broadstairs Food Festival in October.

Owner and Head Brewer Eddie Gadd has become something of a green hop enthusiast. He took his inspiration from Beaujolais Nouveau wine which is made from the first grapes of the new harvest. He thinks Kent brewers could make the most of the county’s hop-growing industry and heritage by instigating a ‘beerjolais’ festival of green hop beers each year, but he’s yet to see who else he can get on board. I hope to be there if he succeeds.

A quick round up of what else I’ve been drinking since my last blog (way back in 1873):

As I’ve banned myself from going into detail about Cornish ale until my magazine feature is out, I’ll just say I had a lot of nice pints of Sharp’s Doom Bar and St Austell Tribute while I was staying in Bude in October. Tribute was also the guest ale in one of my local pubs recently.

I was disappointed at the lack of local beer in the pub I went to in Nottingham (also in October) but did enjoy a gorgeous pint or three of Adnams’ Broadside. Mmmm, so smooth, full-bodied and fruity. It’s one of my favourite ales.

On a visit to Dublin I had to find out whether Guinness tasted better in Ireland (it does) but I also had a very drinkable, hoppy pint of Bay Ale brewed by the Bay Brewery in Galway. This Irish ‘red ale’ would have been better for a little less fizz but was a good pint none the less.

Enjoying a pint of Bay Ale in Dublin

Back in England, I had a couple pints of O’Kells Autumn Dawn at the Wetherspoon’s in Winchester. It seemed a little bit sour when I asked for a taste but was the better of the two I was choosing from – especially as I was making the choice for a friend too. Thankfully it was better as a pint than the tiny taste the barman proffered. I think biscuitty is the term. My friend endorsed my decision. In Basingstoke on the same day I had a few pints of Badger Ales’ Tanglefoot which I hadn’t had on tap for donkeys. It is still a good, traditional pint of ale.

My challenge for the coming weeks is to find a (British) Christmas beer that I actually like. I realise that I might be tasting with my prejudice but the ones I’ve tasted in the past have been vile! Feel free to recommend festive ales for me to try.


One comment

  1. Hiya

    Hook Norton Twelve Days is a lovely Christmas beer. I’ve just brought some Teignworthy beer back from Devon and their Christmas Cracker at 6% will be drunk in a few weeks, I’ll let you know!


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